This photo was taken at five to 4 am.
That’s how late we managed to stay at the New Year’s eve party we went to. I can’t recall the last time I was out until 4 am, (if you don’t count the night we shot to episodes of It’s Just Food between 10pm and noon the next day). It would have been at least a decade BW (before Willem), and tonight he was actually out with us – he had a 3 hour nap in preparation for the party, but I still can’t believe he stayed (more or less) upright all night, driven by the thrill of playing with bigger boys (aged 7-10) and their big-boy Christmas toys – Rock Band wii and such.
4:42 am – that’s what time it is now. It’s fitting, actually, that rather than spend the day composing my final (but not really) blog post of the year, I’m propping myself up in bed to hammer it out when in fact I can hardly keep my eyes open. Mmac’s idea to linger over this all day tomorrow is bloody brilliant.
My New Year’s eve, instead of being relaxing and low-key as we assured ourselves repeatedly it would be, was instead an act in three parts:
OK, I fell asleep at that point, but it was almost 5 (!!) am, so really it was today anyway. That must have been my delirious logic.
8 am: W wakes up and comes in my room, eventually falls asleep again.
9 am: parents call to say they’ll be here in 20 minutes for their ride to the airport.
9:15 am: dressed, guts churning, standing outside (it’s around minus 100), in waiting with a vanilla-scented poo bag for Lou to do his steamy thing.
10:10 am: present – back from the airport and reheating yesterday’s Tims in the pot I cooked my sticky toffee fondue in last night. Oh yes.
So where was I? A New Year’s Eve in three parts:
Since it’s my last official DwJ day, I needed to make something suitably scrumptious. Jamie Oliver’s Steak & Guinness Pie. I don’t want to down the whole thing between the three of us, so I invite my sister over to share it. She obliges. We sit around the kitchen nook and crack a big spoon into the crackly puff pastry crust and scoop steaming (in a much better context this time, don’t you think?) beef in gravy into our bowls, then top them with peas. We ate the whole thing, but at least it was divided between 4. The crispy bits around the edges were superb.
Jamie’s recipe calls for puff pastry on the bottom of the baking dish too, but I don’t think it needs it. It would end up soggy(ish) anyway, and I’d rather spend those calories elsewhere. Like baking the extra sheet of puff pastry on its own, on a cookie sheet, sprinkled with cinnamon sugar. (Frozen President’s Choice puff pastry comes in a package with two individually wrapped rectangles of pastry, and one fit perfectly over my rectangular baking dish – no need for rolling.)
Also, the cheese was fab, but it would have been equally fab without. I browned the meat first (separately from the veg, just so they’d get a bit of browning) and tossed with the flour before adding the Guinness (this way you ensure no lumps), baked the lot in a casserole dish with a lid, then tipped it into the baking dish I wanted to use; I’d love to do this again in individual baking dishes (those little French onion soup crocks from the 70s would be great), each draped with a square of puff p.
Jamie Oliver’s Steak & Guinness Pie
canola or olive oil, for cooking
3 medium red onions, chopped
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 Tbsp. butter
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
2 cups sliced mushrooms (optional, and any kind – button work well, but Portobello are nice and meaty)
2.2 lbs. beef brisket or stewing beef, cut into 3/4″ cubes
salt and pepper
a few springs of rosemary, leaves pulled off and chopped
2 Tbsp. flour
1 can or bottle of Guinness
1-2 cups grated old cheddar (white cheddar looks and tastes great)
1 pkg. frozen puff pastry, thawed
1 egg, lightly beaten with a fork, for brushing on top (optional)
Preheat the oven to 375F. In a large skillet or oven-proof pot, heat a drizzle of oil and sauté the onions over medium-low heat for about 10 minutes, sweating them more than browning them. Add the garlic, butter, carrots, celery and mushrooms and cook for a few more minutes. Transfer to a baking dish (if the one you’re using won’t work) or a bowl. Add a bit more oil to the pan and brown the meat in batches, sprinkling with salt and pepper and rosemary. Return all the meat and vegetables to the pan and sprinkle with the flour; toss to coat. Pour over the Guinness and bring to a simmer, stirring. If the pan you’re using won’t go into the oven, dump it into a baking dish. Either way, add water (or beef stock) to just barely cover the meat.
Cover with a lid or foil and bake for 2 1/2 hours, stirring about halfway through. After 2 1/2 hours the meat should be very tender and the sauce thick, dark and robust; if it’s not, uncover and bake for awhile longer, or cook it on the stovetop to reduce the sauce a bit. Remove from heat and stir in half the cheese.
If your puff pastry is in a block, cut it in half and roll out on a lightly floured surface until it’s about as thick as a loonie (or as Jamie describes, a silver dollar). Place over the beef filling and tuck the pastry around the edges (it doesn’t have to look neat – go for rustic). Lightly score the surface in a crisscross pattern, not cutting through to the filling. Brush the top with beaten egg.
Return to the oven for about 45 minutes. Towards the end of the cook time for the pie, cook some frozen peas. Serve the pie steaming hot, with a scoop of peas beside or overtop. Serves 4-6.
Damn, are we still only on part 1? Good thing everyone is off work today.
After our pie, my sister and I baked a load of potatoes to bring down to Olympic Plaza to my Mom, who was manning the skate shack during their New Year’s Eve bash. We pictured her freezing (she was to be there from 6-midnight, but actually left the plaza at 1:30 am) and possibly needing a potty break. so we trucked down with a little basket of potatoes wrapped in a towel (it’s all we could think of) and a chocolate bun from Manuel Latruwe. When we arrived the line-up to borrow skates was massive (they had a DJ and light show on the skating rink, and live bands, and fireworks at 9 for the kids as well as midnight) and she was short two volunteers, so we jumped in and doled out skates for a couple hours.
We managed to get out before the wave of skate returns, and M, W and I headed over to M and A’s for a 70s-themed party, at which we had jelly balls (meatballs with grape jelly and chili sauce – have I made these this year? if not, there’s reason enough to go on) and smoked salmon devilled eggs, and A made French onion soup topped with toast and Gruyere, baked in these stripy brown tureens she borrowed from her Mom.
I had decided on fondue for the final day of the year, so that was my contribution. Chocolate is the obvious choice – too obvious, I think. Plus I may actually be chocolated out. (Come to think of it, it would have made use of our stash of stocking chocolate – Lindt balls, Toblerone, icy squares, chocolate Santas – all could have been melted down and consumed with fruit.) But since this has been a sticky-sweet year, and also the year I became slightly infatuated with caramel, I decided to do a caramel fondue, which is delicious with white cheddar popcorn for dipping.
But I had been toying with the idea of a sticky toffee pudding, which morphed into sticky toffee fondue. Fortuitously I caught a snippet of Nigella on Food Network, in which she was making a sort of ice cream sauce that she described as liquid pourable fudge and was made with brown sugar, cream and Lyle’s Golden Syrup. (Remember when I said that toast and jam was my favourite food? I lied. It’s buttered toast with Lyle’s Golden Syrup. No question. I can’t even buy the stuff – I kind of pretend it doesn’t exist – because I eat it all.) I searched for the recipe to no avail, and so sort of tried to make something up – really all toffee and caramel are just amalgamations of sugar, syrup, butter and cream. I didn’t have dark Muscovado sugar and didn’t want to make a run to the store, so added a drizzle of molasses to the golden sugar and it turned out fantastic. (At the end of the night we were all sitting around the table eating the stuff straight up out of the Chinese soup spoons W brought to serve his arctic char tartare in. I think I’m still sticky.)
A made me promise to fess up that I jammed on the hot tub last night. True. But no one wants to see post-holiday Julie in a swim suit, no matter how much Prosecco was consumed. Plus we couldn’t exactly leave the 5 zombie boys in the house to their own devices.
Sticky Toffee Fondue
Serve with chunked fruit, small, thin biscotti, and cubes of dense pound cake or fruitcake.
3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar (or golden sugar and a drizzle of molasses)
1/3 cup butter
2 Tbsp. Lyle’s Golden syrup
2/3 cup cream
In a small pot, combine the brown sugar, butter and syrup over medium heat and bring to a boil, stirring often to dissolve the sugar. Boil for a few minutes, swirling the pot occasionally.
Remove from the heat and whisk in the cream. Return to the heat and bring to a simmer again, whisking often. Boil for another few minutes, then remove from heat and cool to warm (you don’t want to serve molten toffee), or cool completely and refrigerate until you need it. Makes about 1 1/2 cups.
Nigella suggests you serve this molten, over ice cream – some solidifies slightly, giving you nuggets of chewy toffee, depending on how long you cook it.
And since this is our finale, my (other) sister made gingerbread letters for the kids to decorate the other night, and she made enough to spell Dinner with Julie. W and all his cousins decorated them, and I thought it would be a fitting final photo for the year, don’t you? (She used the Martha Stewart gingerbread recipe, I believe.)
HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE!
Thanks for making this such a wonderful, memorable year.
(P.S. It looks like Whitecap Books might be interested in publishing a book version of Dinner with Julie! Stay tuned!)